Sept. 18 — METHUEN — A city cemetery employee has been arrested and placed on paid administrative leave after a police investigation revealed he stole $3,265 from residents for plot charges.
Cemetery foreman Daniel Hardacre also admitted that “he had been stealing money from the city for about five years and believed he had not stolen more than $10,000 in those five years,” according to a Sept. 6 police report. He also told police that he had given away at least three free cemeteries, including two for former city employees and one for a cousin and former police officer.
On Sept. 6, Hardacre, 68, on Linwood Avenue in Methuen, “voluntarily surrendered himself to Lieutenant Detective Eric Ferreira and Det. Nick Conway after being notified of the issuance of a warrant accusing him of two thefts of over $1,200 and one count of theft under $1,200,” said a statement from Mayor Neil Perry and Chief Scott McNamara.
“This remains an open and active investigation,” they said in the joint statement, issued Sept. 14 following an investigation by The Eagle-Tribune.
According to the Sept. 6 police report, Human Resources Director Lisa Crowley said Hardacre had been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
Hardacre was arraigned on September 7 and released on his own personal admission. He will appear in court again on November 6 for a hearing pending trial. Under state law, Hardacre can face up to six years in prison and up to $26,500 in fines.
Hardacre’s lawyer, Aylin Corapcioglu, said her client only tried to cooperate when questioned by police and that he never meant any harm. Corapcioglu also said the investigation is still in its infancy.
“There are a lot of facts that have not come out yet,” she said.
According to the police report of Det. Conway, Hardacre admitted to stealing $3,265 between August 15, 2019 and August 5, 2022. As a foreman, Hardacre was responsible for taking payments for cemeteries. He insisted that those payments be made in cash, according to the police report.
“I asked him if he had ever kept cash that a customer gave him, he said he did,” Conway wrote. “At first, Dan was hesitant to admit that he had stolen money, but as the interview progressed, Dan admitted that he had taken cash from about five to six customers.”
According to the police report, Hardacre told investigators he withheld a cash payment of $1,620 paid by resident Robert Farelli for two cemeteries. The payment was made on July 23. He also retained another $1,600 cash payment made on August 15, 2019 by resident Ernst Mesidor.
In a third incident, resident Guy Grasso informed city clerk Anne Drouin that he had paid $45 in cash on Aug. 5 for a duplicate deed on the graveyard he had owned since 1988. Grasso said he was told the duplicate would be sent to him within two weeks; he never received it
According to police, treasurer Jennifer Finnigan said she has no records of Grasso’s transaction and that Hardacre only delivered checks to her office.
det. David Gardner then met with Human Resources Director Lisa Crowley on August 22 to discuss the missing money from Grasso’s payment. During that meeting, Crowley said she told Hardacre that it is not “customary” to accept cash payments.
Hardacre “admitted to taking money for several other cemeteries duplicate and transfer notes, but could not recall how many customers or from which other customers he had taken cash,” the police report said. He said he had issued receipts to customers and that he kept a receipt book in his desk.
However, when Conway met DPW director Pat Bower at the graveyard office on Aug. 31, he “couldn’t find” the receipt book. In a later interview, Hardacre said he “didn’t know where the receipt book was”, adding that he “didn’t take it from the office”.
Hardacre also told Conway that he had given away three cemeteries to residents for free.
He said he gave a parcel of land for free to William Rayno, his cousin and an old Methuen police officer, as well as Brian Blaney, the city’s building inspector for 42 years, and Leonard Daigle, who has worked for the cemetery for about 20 years.
Dan said he believes he gave away 5 to 6 additional lots to people over the years, but couldn’t remember which ones, the police report said.